About polymer

New Zealand banknotes are printed on polymer, which is a type of polypropylene plastic.

The Reserve Bank began circulating polymer banknotes in May 1999. Until then, New Zealand's banknotes were printed on paper made from cotton.

The advantages of polymer are:

  • The average polymer note lasts about four times as long as a paper note. This keeps the cost of producing money down.
  • Polymer notes are stronger and non-porous, so they do not get as dirty as paper.
  • The unique texture of polymer banknotes makes them harder to counterfeit.
  • Disposal of polymer notes is more environmentally friendly. Polymer notes are destroyed by being shredded. The shredded notes can be recycled into other plastic products instead of being buried or burnt.

Tips for handling polymer banknotes

Polymer banknotes are tough, but they still require some care when handling.


Polymer notes are water and oil resistant and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Avoid heat

Polymer notes react to very hot temperatures and shrink or melt when ironed or exposed to open flames.

Don't staple them

Use paper bands when bundling notes. Do not staple or pin banknotes as the tiny holes can easily cause a banknote to tear.

Don't deface

Don’t write on banknotes. It is illegal to deface New Zealand currency.

Fan them out to count

When counting a bundle of new notes - fan them, tap them against a hard surface or shuffle them to ensure they don’t stick together.


Polymer notes are tough. It is very difficult to initiate a rip in a polymer note. However, once a tear is started, a polymer note will rip easily. Repair torn notes with tape and use them again. They will be removed from circulation when they are returned to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Avoid crumpling

Keep banknotes straight and flat. Avoid creasing, crumpling or folding notes. Flatten out creased notes by applying pressure to the note, or curling them in your hand. Never iron a banknote.


Tips for handling polymer banknotes
Handling banknotes thumbnail
Polymer banknotes are tough, but they still require some care when handling. This information sheet contains tips for handling banknotes with confidence.